For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Ashley Siefert Nunes at UCS,  asiefert@ucsusa.org

New UCS Analysis on Who is Most Exposed to Dangerous Smoke Days in Western US

WASHINGTON - There are currently more than 50 major wildfires burning across California, Oregon and Washington, with wildfires in these three states burning more than 4 million acres of land—an area larger than Connecticut. These fiery hellscapes are creating dangerous amounts of smoke and worsening the air quality. Smoky days are particularly harmful for children, seniors, people who work outdoors, and other populations that may be more vulnerable to both the immediate and long-term health hazards, which can even include premature death. 

To better understand where and for whom dangerous smoke days are of great concern as climate change pushes wildfires to new extremes, UCS built upon data from a 2016 studyOur analysis, which also includes a series of new maps, found: 

  • Outdoor workers with no option to conduct their work indoors are among the most at-risk, with 4.8 million workers across the western U.S. exposed to wildfire smoke in an average year.
  • In about 30 percent of counties that regularly experience wildfire smoke, more than one-quarter of the population identifies as non-White. 
  • Roughly 18 million seniors and children are exposed to wildfire smoke every year. 

UCS has the following experts available to discuss the scientific connection between climate change and more frequent and severe wildfires: 

  • Dr. Rachel Cleetus, policy director and lead economist for the Climate and Energy Program at UCS. She is based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Click here to view her bio. 
  • Dr. Kristina Dahl, senior climate scientist at UCS. She is based in Oakland, California. Click here to view her bio. 
  • Dr. Carly Phillips, Kendall Fellow for protecting carbon in Alaska’s boreal forests for the Climate and Energy Program at UCS. She is based in Victoria, B.C. Click here to view her bio. 

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If you would like to talk to an expert, please contact UCS Communications Officer Ashley Siefert Nunes. 

To view a new online Web feature from UCS that visualizes the connections between wildfires and climate change in five sets of charts and photos, click here

A separate fact sheet on the science connecting extreme weather events, like wildfires, and climate change can be found here.

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The Union of Concerned Scientists is the leading science-based nonprofit working for a healthy environment and a safer world. UCS combines independent scientific research and citizen action to develop innovative, practical solutions and to secure responsible changes in government policy, corporate practices, and consumer choices.

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